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Information for Volunteers

Read this section for useful information that will enable you to make the correct decisions, ask the right questions, and ensure you have the best experience possible!

About Academic Credit and Independent Study

Since 2002, around 2,500 students from hundreds of universities across North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have received academic credit through independent study or transfer credit from an ISV partner university for their participation on an ISV program and successful completion of the course requirements. Former students describe earning academic credit for their ISV program as an incredibly effective and worthwhile learning experience.

Participants from Australia ONLY: Current university students are eligible to earn 12 credit points for their participation on the Two-Week Volunteer Program through an Australian University, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).

If you wish to receive academic credit, it is your responsibility to seek approval for course credit from your academic advisor or a professor in your department. Universities (and faculties or departments within a university) have different rules regarding independent study and transfer credit. Approval may also depend on your major and the number and type of credit hours you need to complete your degree requirements. ISV strongly advises that you inquire within your department about receiving credit well in advance of your departure date.

For more details, see below. If you need further assistance, please email our office at


Many past participants have gained independent study or internship/placement credit from universities across Australia for their participation on the ISV program. Students who wish to follow their own course of study during their ISV program can request to have their ISV Project Leader confirm their participation on the project with a simple evaluation form from their university. To arrange this, email and confirm you wish to sign up for Independent Study, and attach your university’s form to be completed by your ISV Project Leader. There is a processing fee of $35 AUD.

ISV - RMIT Academic Credit

Many ISV participants from Australia are eligible to earn 12 credit points for participation in the 2 Week Volunteer Program through the Australian University, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).

  • Each student is responsible for taking course syllabus to their course supervisor at their home university to ensure he/she is eligible to accept RMIT credits.
  • Australian citizens and permanent resident course tuition fees total AUD $1094. [Australian students are eligible to defer tuition fees through the Australian Taxation Office’s High Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) as a BAND 2 subject.]
  • Tuition fees for international students total AUD $3720.
  • Collection of tuition fees and course registration are the responsibility of RMIT, not ISV.
  • To enrol for this option, please send an email to with your postal address. An enrolment kit will be sent to you.
  • Details can also be found on RMIT's website at
  • Deadline for enrolment: 65 days prior to your scheduled departure for the ISV Program. Please refer to your allocation package for your due dates and specific departure date. Any enrolments after deadline must be approved first by ISV or your enrolment may not be accepted.
  • All final grades are provided by RMIT.
  • Syllabi for RMIT:
           RMIT ISV NRM Syllabus (Conservation)
           RMIT ISV CD Syllabus (Community Development)

Additional questions: 

If you have questions about this option or how to register please contact ISV at or Ms. Lynda Solc at telephone (03) 9925 2010. Information is also available on RMIT's website at

Please note: prices are current as of February 2015 and may be subject to change as a result of government legislation.

OS-HELP Loan Scheme

ISV participants who are earning Academic Credit through RMIT or their own university (independent study) can now apply for a government assistance loan (the OS-HELP) of up to $7500 to cover their volunteer project fees and travel costs.

As of January 1, 2014, the rules for which academic programs are eligible for OS-HELP have changed, meaning that students on the ISV Program who are earning academic credit now qualify for government assistance. This is exciting news for those of you wanting to combine volunteering overseas with a short term academic placement with ISV.

What is OS-HELP?

OS-HELP is an interest free loan from the Australian Government, available to undergraduate and postgraduate university students who plan on undertaking a portion of their study overseas. The maximum loan amount is $7500 (for programs in Asia- for all others the max. loan is $6500), which can be used to cover expenses such as airfares, accommodation and other travel/study costs. The loan goes onto your accumulated FEE-HELP debt. A resource document prepared by the Australian Government can be downloaded at

What are the requirements? 

  • You must be an Australian citizen, or the
    holder of a permanent humanitarian visa.
  • You must be a Commonwealth supported student
    (for a definition on what this means, visit:
  • You must not have received OS-HELP on more than
    one other occasion, and not have been granted an OS-HELP loan by another
    provider for an overlapping 6-month study period.
  • You must have successfully completed at least 1
    Equivalent Full Time Study Load (EFTSL) of study in Australia that counts
    towards their course study (ie, one year of full-time study).
  • You must have a minimum of 0.125 EFTSL of study
    to be completed in their course on return from overseas study.

How do you apply?

You will need to apply for OS-HELP through the Study Abroad office at your own university, regardless of whether you are enrolled in Academic Credit through RMIT or not. Each university has their own application and selection processes. Some may require that you sit for an interview. When it comes to short term study (such as the ISV Program), you may need to provide supporting evidence that you are indeed earning credits. This can take the form of a letter on letterhead from ISV/RMIT – but check with your own university what exactly this letter should state. The ISV office can provide such documents upon request.

Other important notes:
  • The final amount you can borrow will be
    determined by your university, but the minimum is $1000 and the maximum is
    $7500. You can request an amount on your application form.
  • If your application is successful, the amount
    is paid directly to you. The final payment for your ISV Program is due to ISV 65
    days prior to departure. 
  • Full information can be downloaded at:
  • Most universities award the loans in six month period,
    based on the semester of enrolment in the topic. Make sure you check the cut
    off dates with your own university so you don’t miss out!

What if I do not have Microsoft Word to write my essay?

Participants must make every effort to use a computer with access to MS Word, as this is the most widely used program for electronic documents. If there are no other options, participants should paste the essay into the text of an email or save and submit it in TEXT format (.txt). This option should only be a last resort, as all formatting will be lost. Any essay that ISV cannot open will be returned to the participant, along with a request to re-submit it in a different format.

How do I apply for academic credit?

  • Print out the course syllabus from: RMIT ISV NRM Syllabus (Conservation) or RMIT ISV CD Syllabus (Community Development)
  • Take this to your course supervisor at your university.
  • Confirm you are able to accept transfer credits from RMIT.
  • Contact Ms. Lynda Solc at telephone (03) 9925 2117 and request an enrollment pack.

This must be completed and returned to Lynda directly. Once you receive confirmation of enrolment, email to confirm you are enrolled in academic credit with RMIT.

Is it important to have a Bibliography in my essay, since most of the information will be from my own experience?

It is essential to have citations and a Bibliography within the essay to support references. It is a requirement that participants use such references to conduct independent research in their primary literature for their essay. Consult the course syllabus for details on minimum reference requirements, as well as formatting guidelines. Essays submitted without references or a Bibliography will receive a poor grade.

How will I know if the credits are transferable to my home university?

All Academic Credit participants are responsible to determine whether their credits are transferable to their home university (e.g. get permission for the transfer of credits). This must be done BEFORE registering for credit. Participants should take a copy of the relevant program syllabus (Natural Resources Management [NRM] OR Community Development [CD]) to their academic advisor as early as possible to determine transferability.

What if my essay is late?

ISV is under no obligation to accept late essay submissions. However, if an essay is late, participants must contact ISV PRIOR to the due date with a detailed explanation. Late essays may be accepted on a case-by-case basis, but will be subject to late penalties. We encourage participants to back-up/save their essay as it is being written and keep a personal copy once it has been submitted. Loss of the essay due to carelessness is not a sufficient excuse for late submissions.

Who is eligible to apply for transfer credits from RMIT?

ISV participants who currently attend university in Australia are eligible to apply for academic credit from RMIT in Melbourne.

How does my home university receive a transcript of my grade?

All participants who register for Academic Credit receive a transcript at the end of their course from RMIT University, not ISV. Participants need to take this to their home university upon completion.

Who assigns my final grade?

Final grades are determined by RMIT upon submission of all component grades. Grades are based upon the compilation of the individual program components and are communicated to individual participants and their home university by RMIT. Please direct yourself to the course syllabus for a breakdown of the final grade. ISV is not involved in sending or requesting transcripts. Final grades are not available from ISV directly.

What are the course requirements?

All registered academic credit participants can access the course syllabus for their chosen program (NRM or CD) any time via the ISV website RMIT ISV NRM Syllabus or RMIT ISV CD Syllabus. Course requirements are indicated in each syllabus. Participants must carefully read the syllabus before departing for their program. Participants must also bring a copy of the syllabus to their host country for reference.

Will I receive an alphabetical or numeric grade?

ISV participants receive both a numeric and alphabetical grade. The alphabetical grade is in the form of high distinction, distinction, credit, pass, fail.

Which syllabus should I use for my program?

There are two syllabi posted for NRM and CD projects. The NRM syllabus is appropriate for programs offered in New Zealand. Both focus areas are applicable in Costa Rica, Thailand and South Africa. If you are travelling to one of these countries and are unsure which syllabus applies to your specific volunteer project, please contact ASAP.

How/Where/When, do I submit my essay?

Please send your essay via email as an attachment in Microsoft Word (MS) format to  DO NOT send your essay to the University. Regardless of return date back home, all essays are due no later than 42 days after completion of your volunteer project.

Whom do I contact if I have questions about the academic credit program?

Your answer depends on the nature of the question: If you have a question regarding Academic Credit only; such as enrollment, fees, deadline, transfers, transcript, and refunds, contact Ms. Lynda Solc at teaephone (03) 9925 2117.
If your question regards the volunteer project, course requirements, essay due dates, etc., contact ISV at Your question will be forwarded to the correct person. Your ISV Project Leader (Instructor) will contact each participant via email a few weeks prior to departure to introduce her/himself. We encourage participants to ask her/him questions about course requirements for the volunteer portion of the program. *We require participants to submit a group discussion outline to their Project Leader at least one week prior to departure.*

How will I know if my essay was received, once I have submitted it?

If you do not get a confirmation email that the essay was received within one week of submitting it, notify ISV and resend the essay from the original email so that ISV has the correct date the essay was sent. Participants are responsible to make sure their essay was received by the due date and must ensure that they receive an email confirmation of receipt from ISV.

Will Academic Credit registration determine which volunteer project I can participate in?

While all ISV volunteer projects have an educational component, participants who receive credit for participation are allocated to projects that have the greatest educational merit- this could result in a participant not being allocated to their first/specific project preference.

Who will grade my course work?

The Project Leader/Instructor is responsible for assessing the participant’s work for the duration of the volunteer project. This includes daily field journal, discussions and evaluation of participation, etc. Grading of all essays fall under the responsibility of the ISV Instructor of Record. Please note all course work is assessed by the same standards as employed in any upper division university course. Evidence of plagiarism will result in a zero grade for the essay and failure of the course.

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